Original piece by Francesco Rio, for Ubitennis.com
1960 – Rod Laver b. Neale Fraser 5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 8-6, 8-6
Back in 1960 the Australian Open were still called Australian Championships. All players participating were from Australian nationality – all but South African Trevor Fancutt – and to take the spotlight was 22-year old Rod Laver. The win at the Australian Open remains the first greatest win for one of the all-time greatest. The grass in Australia perfectly suited Rod’s attacking game and supreme power at the net. Seeded at No.3, Laver first beat 2nd seed Roy Emerson in the semis, then won against expert Fraser in the final. Fraser won the first two sets quite comfortably, until Laver managed to break his opponent’s serve for the first time in the third set. From that moment on the match turned around and Rod entered tennis history.
1965 – Roy Emerson b. Fred Stolle 7-9, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-1
Five years after Rod Laver, Roy Emerson put together another stunning comeback in the finals of the Australian Open. Seeded No.1, Emerson had beaten John Newcombe in the semifinals in three sets. In the last act of the tournament he managed to come back from 2 sets down, winning against No.2 seed Fred Stolle. It was Roy’s 4th title at the Australian Open, surely the most intense and emotional triumph.
1988 – Mats Wilander b. Pat Cash 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6
After losing 12 months before in the final to Stefan Edberg in Australia, Pat Cash was determined to take the title home the following year. Another Swede though, broke Pat’s dream. Mats Wilander had already won the AO title in 1983 and 1984 and surely knew how to conquer the Australian heat. The two battled for 4 hours and 28 minutes, the longest ever before Djokovic and Nadal in 2012. It was Mats’s 5th Grand Slam title, the first conquered on hard courts. For Cash, champion in 1987 at Wimbledon, that became the second defeat in a major final.
1991 – Boris Becker b. Omar Camporese 7-6, 7-6, 0-6, 4-6, 14-12
Back in 1991 Boris Becker arrived in Australia having already won 4 Grand Slam titles and finishing runner-up the year before at Wimbledon. Boris faced 22-year-old from Bologna, Italy, Omar Camporese in an incredible third round match. After 5 hours and 11 minutes, Boris managed to win the match. The German would then end up winning the title beating Ivan Lendl in the final. The match remains one of Italy’s all-time highest moments at the Australian Open.
1995 – Andre Agassi b. Pete Sampras 4-6, 6-1, 7-6, 6-4
The final in 1995 put one against the other the two best players of the World at the time. No.1 Pete Sampras vs. No.2 Andre Agassi. Pete had to fight hard to reach the last act in Melbourne. Agassi had to come back from two sets down in the 4th round against Magnus Larsson and then again in the quarter-finals against compatriot Jim Courier. Agassi had a much easier path to the final, without dropping a set. After losing the first set, Agassi just played one of the best matches of his career, becoming unbeatable on court that day.
2003 – Andy Roddick b. Younes El Aynaoui 4-6, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, 21-19
Quarters-final match between 9th seed Roddick and 18th seed El Aynaoui. What was supposed to be an easy match for the American turned out to be a 4 hours and 59 minutes battle, an 83-game match. The quality of the match was stellar.
2005 – Marat Safin b. Roger Federer 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6, 9-7
After conquering 3 Slams in 2004, Roger Federer was already being pointed out to be the next great thing ever seen in tennis. At the Australian Open in 2005 the Swiss was the obvious favourite and defending champion. Safin had lost in the final to Federer in Melbourne the year before in his comeback tournament, after falling down in the rankings. The 2000 US Open champion played a superb match, impeccable on his backhand, to take the win and conquer his second Grand Slam title two days after, beatin Lleyton Hewitt in the final. Probably one of Safin’s all-time best performances.
2009 – Rafael Nadal b. Roger Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2
After playing what was defined as the best match in tennis history in 2008 in the finals at Wimbledon, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal met again in a Grand Slam final, this time in Melbourne. Beating the Swiss after a tough start, Nadal won his first and so far only title at the Australian Open, to then complete the career Grand Slam one year after winning the US Open. The match went down to history also for Federer’s tearful speech after losing the final and seeing Rod Laver hand the trophy to his historic rival.
2012 – Novak Djokovic b. Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5
The longest final in the history of the tournament. Almost six hours of impeccable baseline battle. The Serb came to the final after finishing an incredible 2011 season with 3 Grand Slam titles, and having wont the title in Australia twice already in 2008 and 2011. In the longest match in the two’s rivalry, Djokovic came out on top. At the end of the marathon match, the two could hardly stand still during the trophy presentation.
2014 – Stan Wawrinka b. Novak Djokovic 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 9-7
One of the most memorable quarter-finals ever witnessed at the Australian Open. That year Stan Wawrinka exited the shadow of fellow countryman Federer to move on and take the spotlight all for himself. In an incredible 4-hour marathon, Stan didn’t stop playing at his best on his one-handed backhand and ended up beating the Serb in five sets. The two best backhands on the tour facing one another. Few days after, Wawrinka celebrated his first ever Grand Slam singles title, beating Rafael Nadal to finish as champion of Melbourne Park. The name “Stanimal” was born.
Miami Open Daily Preview: Which of the Men’s Semifinalists Will Play for Their First Masters 1000 Title on Sunday?
The Spanish No.2 was a finalist at the 2016 Shanghai Masters, losing to Andy Murray. 23-year-old Andrey Rublev, 24-year-old Hubert Hurkacz, and 19-year-old Jannik Sinner are all making their Masters 1000 semifinal debuts.
Also on Friday, the women’s doubles semifinals will be contested, featuring two of the top teams in the world, and two teams that just formed this fortnight.
Roberto Bautista Agut (7) vs. Jannik Sinner (21) – 1:00pm on Grandstand
Their only previous meeting was only two weeks ago, in the Dubai round of 16. It was an extended affair, with Sinner prevailing 7-5 in the third. On that day, Jannik struck 16 aces, and saved five of seven break points. It will be crucial for Sinner to serve well again today, as he won only 38% of second serve points in Dubai. But that will be challenging on the slow-playing hard courts in Miami. As Jim Courier highlighted on Tennis Channel, Bautista Agut normally excels on faster surfaces. However, he’s adjusted better to these heavy conditions than opponents who also like fast courts, such as John Isner and Daniil Medvedev. Sinner doesn’t mind slower court speeds, as evidenced by his quarterfinal run at last year’s Roland Garros. Yet, the 32-year-old Roberto certainly has the experience edge over the Italian teenager, especially at this stage of a big tournament. In a match that will see a plethora of flat-hitting rallies, I give Roberto the slight edge. He is never an easy out, is exhaustingly consistent, and should be able to break Sinner a bit more easily than in Dubai.
Andrey Rublev (4) vs. Hubert Hurkacz (26) – Not before 7:00pm on Grandstand
These two have also only met once before, and that occurred last September in Rome, with Hurkacz upsetting Rublev in three sets. Their stats in that match were extremely similar, with Hubi’s ability to pull out a first set tiebreak being the difference maker. Unlike the first men’s semifinal, neither of these players received a day of rest prior to this match. Hurkacz finished his quarterfinal many hours before Rublev, whose match with Sebastian Korda was delayed multiple times by rain. But Rublev spent about an hour less on court yesterday, as Hurkacz had to fight back from a set and a break down against Stefano Tsitsipas. And the Russian has been the ATP’s winningest player since the start of 2020, with 61 match wins. During that same time span, Hurkacz has only accumulated 28 wins. Rublev’s power game is relentless regardless of the surface speed, and his current confidence level is unmatched. I like Andrey’s chances to advance to Sunday’s championship match.
Other Notable Matches on Friday:
Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara (5) vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek – The Japanese team won their first 12 matches of the year, but then went on a four-match losing streak heading into this event. For Mattek-Sands and Swiatek, this is their first tournament as a team. They’ve dominated the competition so far without dropping a set, allowing their opponents only 10 games across six sets.
Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani (8) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski and Giuliana Olmos – Carter and Stefani have reached two finals this season, but are yet to win a title. Dabrowski and Olmos are another team finding success in their first event as a unit.
Friday’s full Order of Play is here.
Miami Open Daily Preview: Two Top Five Players Face Off in a Marquee WTA Semifinal
World No.1 Ash Barty takes on world No.5 Elina Svitolina for a spot in Saturday’s women’s championship match. The other WTA semifinal will also take place on Thursday, with 2019 US Open champ Bianca Andreescu battling Maria Sakkari, who yesterday upset Naomi Osaka. And there will also be two men’s quarterfinals contested, featuring four of the ATP’s most promising young stars.
Throughout this event, the women’s singles draw will be a day ahead of the men’s. On Thursday, the women will play their semifinals, while the men’s bottom half completes quarterfinal play.
Each day this preview will analyze the two most prominent matches, and note the other intriguing matchups on the day’s schedule. Thursday’s play will begin at 1:00pm local time.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (2) vs. Hubert Hurkacz (26) – 1:00pm on Grandstand
Tsitsipas is vying for his sixth career Masters 1,000 semifinal, while this would mark the first for Hurkacz. Hubi’s only previous Masters quarterfinal appearance also came in the United States, two years ago in Indian Wells. Stefanos not only has the experience edge over Hubert, but also a considerable edge in their rivalry. Tsitsipas leads their head-to-head 5-1, though Hurkacz’s only victory is also their only previous meeting in North America (the 2019 Rogers Cup). And it’s worth noting their last five matches have all gone the distance. While Hurkacz officially represents Poland, he spends plenty of time training in Florida, so he’s fully comfortable in the hot and humid Miami conditions. Tsitsipas should be the fresher of the two: Hurkacz has spent over two hours longer on court to reach this stage. That includes Hubi’s victory over Milos Raonic in the last round, which was decided by a third set tiebreak. With all that in mind, I would consider Tsitsipas the slight favorite in what should be a tight affair.
Ash Barty (1) vs. Elina Svitolina (5) – Not before 3:00pm on Grandstand
Ash Barty has been impressive this fortnight, in her first tournament outside of Australia in over a year. She’s fought her way to a trio of three-set victories despite her level at times failing her. She defeated two in-form Belarusians in the last two rounds: Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka. And with Naomi Osaka’s loss yesterday, Ash is guaranteed to retain the No.1 ranking, which should alleviate some pressure. However, this has been a problematic matchup for the defending champion in the past. Barty is 1-5 lifetime against Svitolina, with her only win coming in their most recent meeting, the championship match of the 2019 WTA Finals. Their two encounters before that were on American hard courts, with Svitolina claiming four of five sets played. But Svitolina arrived in Miami having lost three of her last four matches, and only one of her 18 career final appearances have come in the United States. And Barty has a lot more tools at her disposal should any parts of her game go awry. So I like Barty’s chances to reach her second consecutive championship match in Miami.
Other Notable Matches on Thursday:
Bianca Andreescu (8) vs. Maria Sakkari (23) – This is the other women’s semifinal. Andreescu is coming off three consecutive three-setters, including an exceptionally grueling one just last night against Sara Sorribes Tormo. Sakkari required only a little over an hour to dispatch of Naomi Osaka earlier in the day yesterday.
Andrey Rublev (4) vs. Sebastian Korda – This will be the last men’s quarterfinal. Since the start of 2020, 23-year-old Rublev is a sensational 60-13. Since the start of 2021, 20-year-old Korda is 15-4 at all levels.
Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (2) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (7) – This men’s doubles semifinal features two of the ATP’s hottest doubles teams. Mektic and Pavic have already accumulated three titles this year. Ram and Salisbury have won 10 of their last 12 matches.
Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.
Miami Open Daily Preview: Naomi Osaka Goes for a 24th Straight Win
Osaka’s opponent on Wednesday is Maria Sakkari, who epically saved six match points on Monday, eventually prevailing in a third set tiebreak over Jessica Pegula. And a revitalized Bianca Andreescu takes on Sara Sorribes Tormo, who is 12-1 this month, and was the champion in Guadalajara. In the top quarter of the men’s draw, the seeds have held, making for a marquee quarterfinal between Daniil Medvedev and Roberto Bautista Agut. And one of tennis fastest-rising stars, Jannik Sinner, faces one of the sport’s flashiest stars, Alexander Bublik.
Throughout this event, the women’s singles draw will be a day ahead of the men’s. On Wednesday, the women’s bottom half will complete the quarterfinals, while men’s top half begin quarterfinal play.
Each day this preview will analyze the two most prominent matches, and note the other intriguing matchups on the day’s schedule. Wednesday’s play will begin at 1:00pm local time.
Naomi Osaka (2) vs. Maria Sakkari (23) – 1:00pm on Grandstand
Osaka leads their head-to-head 3-1, though Naomi’s three victories have all gone to a third set. But Sakkari is a much-improved player since they last met in January of 2020. The 25-year-old from Greece has gone 31-15 since that loss, and as per Tennis Abstract, has accumulated a winning record against top 10 opposition. But defeating the four-time Major champion on her favorite surface, and when she hasn’t lost in recent memory, is a huge ask. That’s especially true following the physical and emotional toll of her comeback victory in the last round, a match that lasted nearly three hours in the Florida heat. Osaka has played much less tennis this past week: she received a walkover in the third round, and claimed her other two matches in straight sets. And there’s not much Sakkari does better on-court than Osaka. All this makes Naomi the favorite to reach her first semifinal in Miami.
Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (7) – Not before 8:30pm on Grandstand
They’ve met twice before, with both matches occurring on hard courts, and both matches going the way of the Spaniard. The first was four years ago in the final of Chennai, before Medvedev became the top player he is today. But the other was just last summer at the Western & Southern Open, where Bautista Agut prevailed in three sets. Medvedev suffered from cramps two rounds ago, though looked just fine in a straight set victory yesterday over Frances Tiafoe. He may even be the fresher player today, as Bautista Agut outlasted John Isner in an extended third-set tiebreak, saving a match point along the way. However, Roberto is one of the fittest players on tour, and matches against Isner don’t involve many grueling rallies. Daniil has now won 27 of his last 29 matches. And with this being a night match, his body won’t suffer as much as in the heat of the day. I like Medvedev’s chances of figuring out a way to earn his first victory over Bautista Agut after a significant battle.
Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:
Bianca Andreescu (8) vs. Sara Sorribes Tormo – Andreescu is coming off impressive back-to-back wins against Amanda Anisimova and Garbine Muguruza. And while Sorribes Tormo has taken 12 of 13 matches in March, none of those wins were against a top 10 player.
Jannik Sinner (21) vs. Alexander Bublik (32) – They just played two weeks ago in Dubai, with Sinner prevailing 6-4 in the third.
Lyudmyla Kichenok and Jelena Ostapenko vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Iga Swiatek – this is a women’s doubles quarterfinal featuring two recent Roland Garros singles champions.
Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.
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